2 Aug 2011

Grimpo Nature Notes from Pete Lambert

Nature Notes August 2011

I thought it was but doubted my gut reaction. The Village Shop hanging basket lush with bright flowers had a visitor, as I approached it dropped and whirled away. A few days later I received an email confirming the sighting of a Hummingbird Hawk moth in the area. This attractive moth will quite literally hover in front of flowers to feed, its wings beating so fast they make an audible hum.

I had first encountered this migrating marvel in Kent, then as now it had been attracted to an over flowing hanging basket. I was very excited by this exotic creature, I did at first think it was a humming bird my only reference material being the BBC! This very swift flying moth is actually often reported as a hummingbird. The orange brown hind-wing, together with the black and white on the abdomen sides, which are usually evident in flight, can help with identification. It is most frequently seen in the southern half of Britain and Ireland, particularly coastal counties, though the distribution maps being produced as the result of Butterfly Conservation’s survey work has revealed sightings from as far north as the eastern Scottish coast.

The full range of the Hummingbird Hawk moth extends throughout Europe, North Africa, to India, Korea and Japan. The moth is most frequently observed hovering and flitting from flower to flower, such as those of buddleia and Red Valerian, although sometimes seen flying around the eaves of houses, and examining cracks and holes in walls, possibly looking for a resting spot. The caterpillar likes to feed on Lady’s Bedstraw, Hedge Bedstraw and Wild Madder. Butterfly Conservation have been monitoring the Hummingbird Hawk moth, you can add your own sightings by going to http://www.butterfly-conservation.org/sightings/1096/humming_bird_hawk_moth.html . There are many ways to record your sightings try out the website www.naturalshropshire.org.uk for wildlife records in our area.

The frantic cacophony of spring has hushed now, strong sunshine along the lanes draws out the Ringlet butterflies feeding hungrily on the bramble flowers, occasionally testing out a Dog or field rose bloom. A Small Tortoiseshell butterfly having laid its eggs on the nettles at the edge of the garden now basks on the lawn. Meadow Browns and Gatekeeper butterflies enjoying the long grasses of neglected corners of our local field network. In the evening micro moths and their larger friends visit such as the Bee moth Aphomia sociella.  Bee moths are sexually dimorphic, which means that the males are more brightly coloured and patterned than the females. Like some other members of the Galleriinae tribe, the larvae feed on the comb inside bee and wasp nests. We have a set of hives in the copse close by which is worrying though the more serious pest of beehives seems to be the Wax-moths. One of a number of natural causes of concern for our endangered bee friends, though fortunately we cannot include bears in this country, well at least so far!

Despite the bits and pieces hanging in the window she had not seen it and the collision was fatal. The female blackbird possibly avoiding another danger had not been able to see the glass and now we were solemnly burying her in the corner of the garden reserved for wild or domestic animal friends at the end of their free wheeling days. Earlier that week though we had been spooked on a late evening cycle by a barn owl, very much alive, gliding across the road in front of us and very skilfully negotiating a rhododendron thicket, perching briefly before silently moving on.

Our cycling preparations were for a longer trek which took us alongside two other perching specialists, firstly a Stonechat male on the moors above Llangynog, characteristically atop a hawthorn shrub calling out to its mate. Secondly at Maesbury a Reed bunting cleverly swaying atop a flag iris leaf contemptuous of the breeze pushing him to and fro. Many birds give their names away by their behaviour; careful observation can eliminate an insecure identification in favour of the correct one. So it was that I had been given a lift home and could without endangering my usual passengers look very closely at the bird as she flew in front of us, very low swooping flight, powerful and finally a tight dive up and down the back of the hedge. The dark brown plumage and barred tail combined with this distinctive flight gave us the lovely bird of prey the Merlin. The Pied wagtail and singing Yellowhammer both enjoy characteristic calls and habits making them great birds to watch and enjoy, and finally our first Goldfinch to the table, must be the new mix in the feeders, must top them up and put on the kettle!

Happy wildlife spotting, Pete.

If you would like to share your wildlife sightings please email on petewoodman@thewoods12.fsnet.co.uk , thanks